So others may live: AST1 Rachid Arnick

Written by Christopher Lagan, chief of Coast Guard social media.

Petty Officer 1st Class Rachid Arnick, an Air Station Kodaik rescue swimmer, stands in front of an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter, Aug. 28, 2014. Arnick was awarded the AFRAS Vice Admiral Thomas R. Sargent Gold Medal during a ceremony Sept. 9, 2014, held on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Kelly Parker.

Petty Officer 1st Class Rachid Arnick, an Air Station Kodaik rescue swimmer, stands in front of an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter, Aug. 28, 2014. Arnick was awarded the AFRAS Vice Admiral Thomas R. Sargent Gold Medal during a ceremony Sept. 9, 2014, held on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Kelly Parker.

So others may live. It’s the creed of the aviation rescue swimmer community and a promise to those in danger that when a Coast Guard rescue swimmer enters the water, she or he will do everything in their power – including risk their own life – to save you. Petty Officer 1st Class Rachid Arnick kept that promise and proved he was willing to risk his own life so others may live on the morning of Sept. 21, 2013, in the frigid waters of the Bering Sea.

While there are no “typical days” for a Coast Guard aviation survival technician, the official designation for a Coast Guard rescue swimmer, Sept. 20, 2013, was a day like any other for Arnick. He reported for duty at Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, ready to answer the call should mariners find themselves in peril. What he could not have imagined was the case that would earn him an Association for Rescue at Sea gold medal for saving the lives of four mariners literally clinging to life on a cliffside in Unalaska Bay.

The fishing vessel Chaos aground on the shores of Unalaska, Alaska, during the rescue of four fishermen. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The fishing vessel Chaos aground on the shores of Unalaska, Alaska, during the rescue of four fishermen. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The conditions at the scene of the grounding were so severe – 80 mile-per-hour winds, severe downdrafts and falling rocks, that it was too dangerous for the rescue helicopter to attempt to approach the survivors. While the aircrew hunkered down overnight, it was Arnick’s experience they drew upon to come up with a plan to attempt a first light rescue the next morning. When they arrived back on scene, the conditions weren’t much better but as soon as the survivors saw the rescue helicopter, they leapt off of the sheer cliff face they were hanging to and started swimming out into the Bering Sea in hope of rescue. Arnick and the rest of the crew knew they had to act.

Pushing the helicopter to the absolute limits of its operational capability, the crew was able to maintain a hover long enough to deploy Arnick into the water and just long enough for him to get all four survivors out of the sea and into the aircraft. At that point, as recounted by Capt. Melissa Rivera, commanding officer of Air Station Kodiak, “Upon recovery of the final survivor, a large downdraft necessitated another fly out maneuver bringing the helicopter towards the ocean and AST1 Arnick defenseless in the waves below. Now, Petty Officer Arnick was alone, with the possibility of having to swim to shore or await another hoist.”

Ultimately the rescue helicopter would be able to get back to recover Arnick, at which point he immediately began to treat the survivors for hypothermia and one of the crew members for an injured knee. Never once did Arnick put himself before the safety and care of those he was sent to save.

Petty Officer 1st Class Rachid Arnick is congratulated upon being awarded the Association for Rescue at Sea’s Vice Adm. Thomas Sargent Gold Medal. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Petty Officer 1st Class Rachid Arnick is congratulated upon being awarded the Association for Rescue at Sea’s Vice Adm. Thomas Sargent Gold Medal. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

“As a career rescue swimmer, AST1 Arnick is on the leading edge of Coast Guard Search and Rescue operations,” said Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft. “To save others, he deploys from Coast Guard aircraft into the exact environment from which others are being saved and literally pulls fellow mariners from the clutches of a stormy sea.”

Tags: , , , , , ,